I never really believed that the reconstituted Big East was going to be viable in the long term, but I didn’t see its demise happening in this fashion, nor this quickly.
The Big East is headed for another break up. This time, the seven prominent basketball schools that don’t play FBS football are planning to break away from the ever-changing conference.
The divorce is expected to be complicated, maybe even contentious, with millions of dollars and possibly the future of the league at stake.
The Big East’s non-football members decided Thursday to separate from the conference, a person familiar with the decision told the Associated Press on a condition of anonymity because officials from those schools are still sorting through details. No official announcement is imminent.
The seven schools that don’t play FBS-level football are St. John’s, Georgetown, Marquette, DePaul, Seton Hall, Providence and Villanova. Officials at those schools have concerns about the direction of the conference and feel as if they have little power to influence it.
One of the many things that will need to be sorted out is who owns the rights to the name Big East. Will it stay with new members or go with the old? Georgetown, Providence, Seton Hall and St John’s were among the original members of the conference when it was formed primarily for basketball in 1979. Villanova came in a year later. Marquette and DePaul came in 2005, the Big East’s last previous major expansion.
Most importantly there are of millions dollars that both sides will likely claim at least some ownership of, including NCAA Tournament money that is paid out every five years based on appearances, about $70 million in exit fees the Big East has collected from the recent departures and future possible exit fees from the latest members to announce they are leaving – Rutgers and Louisville.
What would happen to the current and future football members also is unknown. They could simply stick together and continue on the path they are headed. But if the basketball side of the Big East is weakened it could decrease the value of the conference to television networks. The league is currently trying to negotiate a crucial TV contract, but instability has made it impossible.
See here and here for more on the original story, and keep an eye on places like CBS Sports Eye On College Basketball and ESPN College Sports for late-breaking updates. If the Big East goes kaboom, the big question is what happens to the schools that were planning to join it? To say the least, things are unclear.